Russell Moore has quite a story to tell, and he tells it with biblical wisdom and unshakable faith in Losing Our Religion: An Altar Call for Evangelical America.
Moore joined a Southern Baptist church as a child and grew up to be one of the denomination’s leading intellectuals. But he made a very public—and painful—departure two years ago from the Southern Baptist Convention after differences with SBC leaders on a number of political and social issues.
He served for eight years as the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the SBC’s public-policy arm. But he became embroiled in an ugly controversy with long-time friends and mentors, largely because of his criticism of Donald Trump and the SBC’s handling of a sexual-abuse scandal.
“We can’t get rid of you,” one denominational leader told Moore. “All our wives and kids are with you, but we can do psychological warfare until you think twice before you open your mouth.”
Then one day after a “particularly hostile” meeting, his wife said, “I love you. I’m with you to the end. And you can do whatever you want. But if you’re still a Southern Baptist by summer, you’ll be in an interfaith marriage.”
In 2021, he resigned from the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and left the SBC. “I was not losing my faith, but I was losing my religion,” he wrote.
Today, he is the Editor in Chief of Christianity Today, and he has written a book about his experiences.
“But that doesn’t work anymore”
He told All Things Considered why he believes Christianity in America—not just the SBC—is in crisis:
“Well, it was the result of having multiple pastors tell me essentially the same story about quoting the Sermon on the Mount parenthetically in their preaching—turn the other cheek—to have someone come up after and to say, ‘Where did you get those liberal talking points?’
“And what was alarming to me is that in most of these scenarios, when the pastor would say, ‘I’m literally quoting Jesus Christ,’ the response would not be, ‘I apologize.’ The response would be, ‘Yes, but that doesn’t work anymore. That’s weak.’ And when we get to the point where the teachings of Jesus himself are seen as subversive to us, then we’re in a crisis.”
In his book, Moore cited an article by Tim Alberta in The Atlantic called “How Politics Poisoned the Evangelical Church.”
“In this environment, a church leader’s stance on biblical inerrancy is less important than whether he is considered ‘woke,’” Alberta wrote. “His command of Scripture is less relevant than suspicions about how he voted in the last election.”
Does the church practice what it preaches?
Research has shown that religious affiliation is declining in America, and Moore suggested that evangelicalism may be partly to blame for becoming too political.
“We see now young evangelicals walking away from evangelicalism not because they do not believe what the church teaches, but because they believe the church itself does not believe what the church teaches,” he wrote. “And, more than that, many have concluded that the church itself is a moral problem.”
In concluding the book, Moore reflected on his home church as a youth in Mississippi.
“Much of what they assumed turned out to be, just as I feared, a mixture of southern honor culture, American patriotism, Republican politics, white racial backlash, and on and on,” he wrote. “If I don’t face that squarely, I can’t be honest with myself or with you.
“But everything they told me about Jesus was true.”
That’s why Moore may have lost his religion, but he never lost his faith.